Book Review: Collapse, by Richard Stephenson


Title:  Collapse

Author: Richard Stephenson

Publisher: Amazon Digital

Genre: Thriller, Disaster, Dystopian

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

I liked most of this book. In fact if the book had included a climax with a decent hook at the end, I probably would have given it more stars–at least three, and maybe even four. The writing was okay–not Faulkner, but it got the job done. My problem, however, was the ending.

First I want to premise this by saying I LOVE disaster films. I don’t care how outlandish, how unscientific the situation. Give me the asteroid hitting the earth while a new ice age is starting and there’s a volcano in Los Angeles. I like to see how people react when the world goes to hell. I also enjoy dystopian fiction, which I’ve reviewed before on this blog. I like thrillers with lots of action.

The first three-quarters of this book, I had all that. Basically there were four different story lines going on including a billionaire recluse with the world’s first AI computer, a sheriff in Texas about to be hit by the mother of all hurricanes, and an inmate in California about to be hit by a giant wildfire. Throw the president and an imminent war with Iran and nuclear detonations in the atmosphere to cause an EMP and you’ve got plenty of disaster. I like how the four stories narrowed to three and then converged into one at the end. (an expected outcome).

But then the writer got lazy.

A thriller by definition aims to thrill. One of the biggest letdowns, unfortunately, is when a thriller doesn’t deliver. You can have nonstop action throughout a book or movie, but if you skip or just plain put off the big bad climax at the end, it’s kind of like a big air balloon that you just suddenly let all the air out of. All the big exciting stuff in this book happened midway. Then the remainder of the book was pretty much just preparation for an upcoming fight . . . which won’t happen until next book.

Boo. I don’t plan on reading it, because what if the next book does the same thing?

This is a self-published book, and it’s a debut book, so I get it, the writer is still learning. Lesson #1:  don’t ever cheat your reader out of a big bang finish. I don’t care how many chases, shootings, fires, hurricanes, etc. you have. There should be at least a good confrontation with the enemy at the end. The good guys don’t have to win (and shouldn’t if there’s a sequel). But at least have that confrontation!

So yeah. 2.5 stars.


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